October is National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month. Guest contributor L.J. Kaufman offers some key insights into a growing problem among our nation’s youth.
By L.J. Kaufman
Because Cyber Bullying is a crime, parents must take the situation seriously! Cyber bullying is especially heinous because it invades the safety of our homes. Especially for school-aged children, most electronic devices, such as computers, tablets, and smart phones, are in the home. Every person deserves and requires a haven of personal safety. The world is full of both joy and cruelty. If there is no place for love and comfort to shield our children from bullies, our children are greatly at risk emotionally, psychologically and ultimately physically.
Parents especially need to be aware! Cyber bullying can affect you, too. Electronic communications are often used in domestic violence situations. Just when society thinks it finally has a dicey grasp on the signs and techniques of abuse, the grip slips. Technology is at the center of the shift. The technological advances of the human race are staggering in scope and complexity. Lives are transformed. Smart phones, plain cell phones, the Internet and GPS trackers are common devices. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Foursquare, Pinterest and YouTube are social media sites that millions utilize daily. These sites have become the lifeline of a generation.
Bullying is an abuse. It is just another tool in the box to control, manipulate, harass, and terrorize a victim. Using the anonymity available for the new technology, an abuser wields a much stronger weapon, garnering many people to pile on to the abuse. The fear is compounded because the victim may not know the identity of the abuser.
Cyber bullying goes beyond a school issue. It is abuse used in every walk of life. It is abuse that takes place online or through text messages on your phone. Bullying has been defined as the “purposeful attempts to control another through verbal abuse—which can be in tone of voice or in content, such as teasing or threats—exclusion, or physical bullying or violence, which the victim does not want.” Parents must work with their children to develop skills and strategies to protect them for a lifetime.
-Sending someone mean or threatening emails, instant messages, or text messages
-Excluding someone from an instant messenger buddy list or blocking their email for no reason
-Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others
-Breaking into someone’s email or instant message account to send cruel or untrue messages while posing as that person
-Creating websites to make fun of another person, such as a classmate or teacher
-Using websites to rate peers as prettiest, ugliest, etc.
-Never give out personal identifying information online, whether in instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs, or personal websites.
-Never tell anyone but your parents your password, even friends.
-If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don’t respond. Save it or print it out and show it to an adult.
-Never open emails from someone you don’t know, or from someone you know is a bully.
-Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your classmates to see, even in an email.
-Don’t send messages when you’re angry. Before clicking “send,” ask yourself how you would feel if you received the message.
-Help kids who are bullied online by not joining in and showing bullying messages to an adult.
-Always be as polite online as you are in person.
-Keep your home computer at a busy area of your home.
-Set up email and chat accounts with your children. Make sure that you know their screen names and passwords and that they don’t include any personal identifying information in their online profiles.
-Regularly go over their instant messenger “buddy list” with them. Ask who each person is and how your children know him or her.
-Print this list of commonly used acronyms in instant messenger and chat rooms from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and post it by your computer.
-Discuss cyber bullying with your children and ask if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.
-Tell your children that you won’t blame them if they are cyber bullied. Emphasize that you won’t take away their computer privileges—this is the main reason kids don’t tell adults when they are cyber bullied.
Parents are teachers need to take the responsibility to educate our beautiful, precious children as to all aspects of bullying and abuse. I challenge all parents to go beyond the mechanics of identifying and protecting our youths from cyber bullying and abuse. I sincerely hope that all parents have discussions with their children and evaluate their own actions as to what civil behavior looks like. Cyber bullying education is not just protection. The education should also include why a person should not instigate the attacks. The argument that it is acceptable and “everyone does it” should be extinguished on so many levels. Most states have criminalized the behaviors.
Bullies have been around forever. Our new technology has elevated the invasiveness and harshness, partly due to anonymity. Please keep the dialogue open with your children. Words are powerful tools of harm, which cause invisible damage to everyone, especially children. Parents, please be involved in cyber safety before the problems occur.
–How Parents Can Deal with Twitter Abuse by P. Humbargar
L.J. Kaufman is an attorney, professor and author of It’s Never A Secret.